JUDGE: Thoughts on Week 13

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Clark Judge

  • The MVP race just got white hot, with and back on track ... and doing what's he's been doing all along, which is scoring touchdowns. Atlanta's has now at or near the top of the race, not because of the highlight film he put together against Minnesota but because of what he did for his team — namely, account for 346 of the club's 379 yards, including an NFL-record 173 yards rushing by a quarterback, and score the winning touchdown. That's great. He deserves to be there. But there's someone we haven't mentioned, and he should be given equal consideration. That's of Oakland, and all he's done is produce eight 300-yard passing games. The NFL record is nine, and, just a hunch, but he gets it tonight against the . Remember, now, this is an MVP award, so the question is: Is Vick more valuable to the than Gannon is to the ? Gannon has all sorts of weapons — , , and — that Vick does not. Also, how important will the team's record be to what happens here? Don't ask me. Just look what happened to the Texas Rangers' Alex Rodriguez.
  • X-rays Monday showed was playing with a broken hand Sunday, but I could have told you there was something wrong with St. Louis quarterback . He didn't throw passes with the confidence he once did, and he didn't throw passes down the field as he once did. His longest completion Sunday? It was for 28 yards, and that was as much run as it was catch. He didn't have another over 20 yards. Once he had open when he was locked in one-on-one coverage with . He underthrew him, and Vincent made the interception. "He looked a little jittery," said defensive end N.D. Kalu, who had four sacks. "He didn't look like himself. Maybe he has an injury. I heard he's got an injury, and maybe not telling anyone. Maybe he's one of those tough guys, and he's keeping it to himself." For the record, Warner has three touchdowns and 11 interceptions and is 0-6. In his first six starts of 1999 he had 18 touchdowns, three interceptions and never lost.
  • The New York tried four times from the Tennessee 1 on Sunday. He not only never gained a yard, but he lost three yards. Pardon me, but aren't goal-line and short-yardage plays why the drafted ?
  • One man's roof is another man's floor. Case in point: the ' 23-20 win over Tampa Bay. With under two minutes left, the up by 3 and Tampa out of timeouts, ' coach Jim Haslett had backup quarterback throw his first pass of the day. Pardon me, but isn't this the same position that Denver's Mike Shanahan was in a week ago against Indianapolis? Uh-huh. And didn't he have throw on third down, too? Yep, but there's one difference. Beuerlein missed, opening the door to a ' overtime win; Delhomme did not, and New Orleans held on for victory. Give Haslett credit. He took a gamble, and he won. If he hadn't, he would have joined Shanahan in the principal's office.
  • When the Cleveland miss the playoffs they can blame themselves for not getting there. The are 2-4 at home, including devastating losses to Kansas City when linebacker threw his helmet and a 13-6 defeat by Carolina when someone named ran for 122 yards. Excuse me, but didn't retire from the NBA?
  • Memo to : Update the resume. Richey handles the San Diego kickoffs — or, at least he did until Sunday. But after launching his fourth kickoff this year out of bounds, Richey was benched, and now his career's in jeopardy. Why? Well, when's the last time you heard of a kickoff specialist taking a seat? And if that's all he can do, what's the use in keeping him around? The team has such little faith in the guy that it keeps as its field-goal specialist, and he missed three attempts on Sunday.
  • The St. Louis drafted for defense the past two years, but that will have to change. I'll be surprised if they don't draft an offensive tackle next year. They need one, and they don't find one there they better get one through free agency. With sidelined Sunday, the club had to live with and rookie as its tackles, and that's not good. Ask Kalu. The defensive end only once had four tackles in a game in his two years with the ; on Sunday, he had four sacks ... and look no farther than the revolving doors who tried to block him. "This was a game I needed to have," said Kalu, signed away from Washington before the 2001 season. "I waited a game to have a break-through game like this." Actually, it was more than that. Kalu achieved Sunday what it had taken his previous 35 games — including the playoffs — to do.
  • Seldom have San Diego general manager John Butler and Atlanta's Dan Reeves had better days than Sunday. Sure, they both won, but look how they did it. The prevailed in overtime thanks to 173 yards rushing by Vick, an NFL record for quarterbacks. The won in overtime with for 220 yards from running back , who set a team record. So where do Butler and Reeves come in? They're the guys who engineered last year's trade of draft choices, with San Diego surrendering its No. 1 pick (Vick) to Atlanta for the ' first choice (Tomlinson). I don't know of a deal that's worked out better.
  • For those who insist there is no equal among tight ends for Kansas City's , I have two words for you: . He had seven catches for 71 yards Sunday, and while none went for touchdowns, four went for first downs. The guy not only knows how to catch; he knows how to get where he's going. Maybe the should think about giving him the ball next time they're at the 1.
  • A year ago Denver's had five 100-yard receiving games and was the AFC's top receiver. With Sunday's loss to San Diego Smith has now gone all 12 games without a 100-yard game this year. There are two reasons: 1) Denver has more intermediate options now that and are back, and 2) is as much a long-ball threat as Smith.
  • Arizona quarterback 's contract is up after the season, and, no, I can't imagine the making a run at the guy. Plummer is not to blame for what's going on this year; a raft of injuries are. But Green Bay's had injuries, too, and is overcoming them. Plummer has not. He threw three interceptions on Sunday and was benched in the third quarter. Plummer's had time and plenty of opportunities to emerge as a star in Phoenix, and it hasn't happened. There's a growing feeling that once the season ends he and the Cards will move on without each other.
  • Rookie kicker nails six field goals on Sunday, and you wonder what's going on. I'll tell you. , that's what. A year ago, Stewart was the team's starting quarterback, and Pittsburgh had a league-high 40 field-goal attempts. But when he was benched in favor of , those chances diminished — mostly because Maddox was able to produce touchdowns. But check this out, since Stewart's return, the foot is back in ' football, with Reed hitting on nine of 10 tries — including six against Jacksonville. In the previous 10 games with Stewart (3) and Maddox (7), had only 21 attempts. He made 12.
  • The San Francisco are in trouble after this season, and it's all about money. I'm not talking about extending coach Steve Mariucci's contract; I'm talking about keeping its players. It did it a year ago; it won't do it next year. The reason: The club has cash shortages, and you can blame it on no new stadium. Anyway, the will have to make a choice on defensive end or wide receiver . It can keep one; it almost certainly can't keep both. Streets is the team's second-leading receiver; Okeafor is second on the team in sacks. You make the call.
  • Poor Mike Tice. The guy can't win. Literally. He designed a clever trick play in the last half minute against Atlanta and worked it to perfection, with wide receiver throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to quarterback for what should have been the game-winning score. One problem: Nobody reported left tackle was lined up in an uncovered position, and the were penalized for an illegal formation. Tice said he went over the play with officials prior to the game and told them he'd try to run it, with McKinnie anchoring the left side of the line. Another problem: He should have told them during the timeout immediately prior to the call. "Ultimately," Tice said, "it's my fault." Ultimately, he's right.
  • Seattle's threw for a career-high 427 yards, which will have some people touting him as the ' quarterback for years to come, but there's something to consider here: 1) He did it in a loss, and 2) he did it against the . This is a team that ripped for a career-high 350 yards two weeks ago, and there's a common element in the performances of him and Hasselbeck: Neither was sacked and both were seldom pressured. Over the past three games the have one sack, and, I don't care how good your secondary is, that will murder you once you make it to the playoffs.
  • For all the talk about and , it's the Indianapolis defense that has the back in charge. That's not surprising, considering the team's head coach. It takes a team time to pick up Tony Dungy's defense, and the seem to be getting it at the right time. They've surrendered 39 points over the last four games ... all of them wins. They gave up 97 over the four before that and lost three of them. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address,
  • Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Browns, Broncos, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Vikings, Saints, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, Panthers, Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers, Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Todd Peterson, Tony Gonzalez, Jerry Rice, Charlie Garner, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace, John St. Clair, Kurt Warner, Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Bledsoe, Jake Delhomme, Tiki Barber, Troy Vincent, Kordell Stewart, Wade Richey, LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, Chike Okeafor, Matt Hasselbeck, Jeremy Shockey, Bryant McKinnie, Ashley Lelie, Tommy Maddox, Andy King, Jeff Reed

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